"I never appeared in public, at least consciously, looking like "just any woman."
No one would have every predicted the turn of events that were to come next for Joan. It is said that Joan was the one that approached Bette Davis about the movie " What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"(1962). Robert Aldrich would direct the picture but he needed someone to fund the film and he was trying to sell them on the fact that he had two screen legends signed on: Crawford and Davis. Most people said" Who would want to pay to see those two old broads" and just laugh in Aldrich's face. Eventually, the film was financed and made on a very low budget. When the film was released it was a huge success and made back its production costs in its first week. The film would go on to be one of Crawford and Davis' most successful movies of their careers. The movie was hyped up by the well-known dislike between the two stars and all the rumors going around about what was happening on the set. The movie was the first horror film for Joan and it wouldn't be her last. Joan found making "Baby Jane" to be a grueling experience. Davis was very mean to her and in one part of the film Davis was supposed to pretend to kick her while she was on the floor but instead Davis had kicked her in the head resulting in several stitches. Later in the film, Davis was to lift Crawford out of the bed, Davis requested that Joan not be a dead weight since Davis had a bad back. Joan took this opportunity as a payback and Joan weighed down her body with weights resulting in Davis throwing her back out. Watching these two divas feud must have been a joy!! The success of the movie did bring Joan back into the limelight. She had been in Hollywood now for almost 40 years and was coming off a blockbuster-hit movie. It must have been a great feeling to be approaching 60 years old and having a hit movie and such a successful career. Davis was nominated for an Oscar for her role in "Baby Jane", Crawford was not. It was no surprise to Joan; she knew Davis had the meatier role. Oscar night came and Davis lost the Oscar to Anne Bancroft for "The Miracle Worker". Bancroft could not attend and Joan was asked to accept the Oscar in her absence. Joan had upstaged Davis that night by accepting the Best Actress award. Davis would not forgive Crawford for upstaging her. Davis always regarded Crawford as the "movie star" and herself as the "actress". In some respects you could agree with that statement but Joan had proved herself many times over in the acting department.
Crawford and Davis, the two dueling divas, on the set of
Joan at the 35th Academy Awards ceremony in 1962 accepting the Best Actress award for Anne Bancroft.
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" was really the last important movie that Joan made in her career. "Baby Jane" also started her in a new genre of movies, "scream queen" movies. Her next film was "The Caretakers"(1963). The film had a substantial budget and began filming before "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" The film also earned a few Oscar nominations as well. The public was hungry for another horror flick with Crawford & Davis. They both signed on to make " Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte"(1964) directed by Robert Aldrich once again. Filming was underway for this much anticipated film but Davis was hard as nails towards Crawford and it is said that Crawford faked an illness in order to be "let go" from the film. Olivia DeHavilland replaced Crawford on the film and it went on to be a hit. One can only dream of how good it would have been if Crawford had stuck it out. "Straight-Jacket"(1964) was an over the top horror flick where Joan played an axe murder. This film has gone on to become a cult film. It is a fun film to watch as Joan gives all of herself as if she were still acting in "Mildred Pierce." Although Crawford was not making the blockbuster drama's she was used to in her hey-day, the horror films she was making was drawing a whole new generation of fans. Crawford also enjoyed working with William Castle.
Joan still attractive in her 60's was a true legend.
Joan continued to make the "B" horror movies with William Castle. "I Saw What You Did!"(1965) was a thriller suspense movie and Joan gave all of herself in this picture as she did with everything else in life. Joan was getting a good amount of film offers but her work with Pepsi and charity work took away the time she could have used to make more films. Joan surrounded herself with friends and her devoted fans in her later life but the public can be cruel to the aging. A fan once saw her in her building and made the statement to her " Weren't you Joan Crawford?" It's a shame that when your in the limelight and especially for women, you have to look pretty and young till the end but the reality is everyone gets old. Joan accepted many television roles such as: The Lucy Show, The Secret Storm, The Virginian and Night Gallery with Steven Spielberg when he was pretty much unknown. She did however make two more movies; "Berserk"(1968) a horror flick filled picture that took place at a circus was actually a modest hit. It grossed in the top 100 films that year and it was Columbia's 8th most successful film of that year. "Trog"(1970), her last film. Joan also turned down two films around this time: The Bastards (1967) (Film released in 1968) and You’ll Hang My Love (1968) they were to be made in Italy. Joan turned them down because the producers would not give her a percentage of the earnings. Once her film career was pretty much over, Pepsi Cola pretty much discarded the star as their spokesperson. Pepsi had wanted to get rid of Crawford for some time now and used her age to force her out of Pepsi Cola. Also, her drinking had interfered with some of her public appearances for Pepsi and they used this against her as well even thought many other members on the Pepsi board were also battling the same problem. Joan moved twice over the course of six years, once in 1968 and her last move was in 1973 into a small New York flat. Both were a matter of downsizing and the face she was getting older and it was easier to live in a more compact setting. Her last public appearance was in 1974, she was 70 years old. Joan was pictured with long time friend Rosalind Russell and the picture was most unflattering. Joan saw the photo and stated,” If that is the way I look, then no one will ever photograph me again."....and no one did.
Joan approching her 70's, poses for a fashion magazine ad.
This is one of the last pictures of Joan taken the a year before her death.
Joan's final years were spent in recluse. She had two of her fans come live with her and care for her. Everyone was pretty much gone except for her youngest daughters who still cared for her. By this point Christina and Christopher could care less about the woman that had adopted them. There so many different stories on how Joan actually died. Some say she died of cancer, some say she took her own life and some say it was a heart attack that killed the aged star. Joan Crawford died on May 10th 1977 she was 73 years old. After Joan's death she left out her daughter Christina and her son, Christopher, from her will. Stating in the will that is was "reasons well known to them". Any person with reason can see this is what stemmed the movie "Mommie Dearest."(1981). Christina was outraged that she was excluded from any money and actually contested the will and did receive a small settlement. She also decided it was important to make some more money off of her mother with the release of "Mommie Dearest." There are so many questionable events and inaccurate information in the movie that one can wonder how anyone could take the movie seriously. Till this day, Christina continues to mock and poke fun of Joan and her own abuse. Christina was pretty much a coward and not able to accuse Joan while she was still alive so Joan could defend herself. In any event, after the movie was made, Christina suffered a massive stroke that almost killed her and all the stars that were in the film never had a decent acting part again. Poor Faye Dunaway's career was on the up and up prior to making "Mommie Dearest" now she pretty much has become obscure. Joan should be credited for what she had accomplished. She had achieved success in a "man's world". She was a star for more than 50 years and one of the few silent movie stars that had succeeded beyond that. She gave some of the best performances from an actress ever to grace the movie screen. She paved the way for many women today. Their will never be another like, Joan Crawford.
Joan Crawford 1904-1977.